A doctor conducts the procedure of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) at the laboratory of the IVMED fertility clinic in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. Some Ukrainian soldiers are turning to the process of freezing sperm as they face the possibility that they might never go home. (AP Photo/Roman Hrytsyna)
Ns News Online Desk: KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — As Vitalii Khroniuk lay facedown on the ground taking cover from Russian artillery fire, the Ukrainian solider had just one regret: He had never had a child.
Aware that he could die at any moment, the 29-year-old decided to try cryopreservation — the process of freezing sperm or eggs that some Ukrainian soldiers are turning to as they face the possibility that they might never go home.
“It’s not scary to die, but it’s scary when you don’t leave anyone behind,” said Khroniuk, who had quickly joined the war effort, without a thought about his future, when Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago.
During a vacation home in January, he and his partner went to a private clinic in Kyiv, IVMED, that is waiving the $55 cost of cryopreservation for soldiers. The clinic has had about 100 soldiers freeze sperm since the invasion, says its chief doctor, Halyna Strelko. Assisted conception services to get pregnant currently cost $800 to $3,500.“We don’t know how else to help. We can only make children or help make them. We don’t have weapons, we can’t fight, but what we do is also important,” said Strelko, whose clinic had to close during the first months of the war as Kyiv was under attack but reopened after the Russian military retreated from the area.
When Khroniuk told his partner, Anna Sokurenko, 24, what he wanted to do, she initially was unsure.
“It was very painful to realize that there is a possibility that he will not return,” said Sokurenko, adding that it took her a night of reflection to agree.
She and Khroniuk spoke to The Associated Press while sitting at the clinic, where posters of smiling babies, including one that reads, “Your future is securely protected,” hang in the corridor. The clinic’s lab has its own backup power supply that kicks in during frequent outages from Russian missile strikes damaging the electric infrastructure.
Dr. Strelko, who has been in the fertility business since 1998, said the service she is offering soldiers is particularly important now, pointing to “a very aggressive part of this war with massive losses.”
Russian forces have been pushing their advance on the eastern city of Bakhmut with heavy shelling and attacks that are believed to have produced massive troop losses for both Ukraine and Russia. Neither side is saying how many have died.
Sokurenko and Khroniuk married a few days after their clinic visit, and he is now fighting in the Chernihiv region near the border. She believes that a chance to have a child, even after a partner is killed at war, could smooth the deep pain of loss.
“I think it’s a very important opportunity in the future if a woman loses her loved one,” she said. “I understand that it will be difficult to recover from this, but it will give the sense to continue to fight, to continue to live.”
Nataliia Kyrkach-Antonenko, 37, got pregnant while visiting her husband in a front-line town a few months before he was killed in battle. Her husband, Vitalii, came home to Kyiv for a short vacation 10 days before his November death and got to see an ultrasound of his unborn baby girl. He also visited a fertility clinic to freeze his sperm.
By Associated Press